Obama honors King on final pre-presidency day

President-elect Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama, and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden wave during "We Are One: Opening Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial" in Washington, Sunday, Jan. 18, 2009.

Carolyn Kaster/The Associated Press
Published: Monday, January 19, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 19, 2009 at 9:00 a.m.

WASHINGTON Fresh off a rollicking celebration in the shadow of Abraham Lincoln, President-elect Barack Obama is shaping the final day of his pre-presidential life around another giant figure, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Obama is taking part in a community renovation project in the Washington area to honor King, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Monday is the federal holiday commemorating the birthday of King, who advocated peaceful resistance and equality among all races. He blazed a trail for Obama, soon to be the nation's first black president.

The vice president-elect, Joe Biden, is also taking part in volunteer service on Monday. His wife, Jill, and Obama's wife, Michelle, are helping with a service project, too.

Transition aides declined to name the locations or details of the projects.

The run-up to Obama's inauguration on Tuesday has, like his election itself, been defined by enormous public enthusiasm, carefully choreographed events and a lofty spirit of unity. What awaits, as Obama often reminds the nation, is many months, if not years, of tough work.

The weekend celebrations began Saturday with Obama's whistle-stop tour, from Philadelphia to Washington, along the path Abraham Lincoln took in 1861. Then came a roaring celebrity-filled concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, where several hundred thousand people flanked the reflecting pool, hearing actors, singers and then Obama himself rally for national renewal.

Now Obama is asking the nation to honor King's legacy by making a renewed commitment to service. That has long been the goal of the King holiday, even if many see it as a day off.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee has launched a Web site, USAService.org, to help people find volunteer opportunities close to their homes.

"I am asking you to make a lasting commitment to make better the lives of your fellow Americans a commitment that must endure beyond one day, or even one presidency," Obama said in a YouTube appeal last week. "At this moment of great challenge and great change, I am asking you to play your part; to roll up your sleeves and join in the work of remaking this nation."

The president-elect has a busy Monday evening, too.

He is to attend three private dinners to honor the public service of former Secretary of State Colin Powell; Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware; and Sen. John McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee. Those dinners will be held at the Hilton Washington, National Building Museum and Union Station.

Michelle Obama, the future first lady, is hosting a children's evening concert.

Meanwhile, with the nation's transition of power now just more than a day away, a new hero has been invited to join the inauguration.

US Airways Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, who safely crash-landed a failing jetliner in the Hudson River on Thursday, has been invited by the president-elect to attend Tuesday's inauguration. So has Sullenberger's crew and his family.

An aide to Obama said the inaugural committee is working on the details.

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